This article ranks human languages by their number of native speakers. However, all such rankings should be used with caution, because it is not possible to devise a coherent set of linguistic criteria for distinguishing languages in a
dialect continuum A dialect continuum or dialect chain is a spread of language variety, language varieties spoken across some geographical area such that neighboring varieties differ only slightly, but the differences accumulate over distance so that widely separ ...
. For example, a language is often defined as a set of varieties that are mutually intelligible, but independent national standard languages may be considered to be separate languages even though they are largely mutually intelligible, as in the case of Danish and
Norwegian Norwegian, Norwayan, or Norsk may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Norway, a country in northwestern Europe *Norwegians, both a nation and an ethnic group native to Norway *Demographics of Norway *The Norwegian language, including the t ...
. Conversely, many commonly accepted languages, including German, Italian and even
, encompass varieties that are not mutually intelligible. While
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language that first emerged in the 1st to 4th centuries CE.Semitic languages: an international handbook / edited by Stefan Weninger; in collaboration with Geoffrey Khan, Michael P. Streck, Janet C. E.Wats ...

is sometimes considered a single language centred on Modern Standard Arabic, other authors describe its mutually unintelligible varieties as separate languages. Similarly, Chinese is sometimes viewed as a single language because of a shared culture and common literary language. It is also common to describe various Chinese dialect groups, such as Mandarin, Wu and Yue, as languages, even though each of these groups contains many mutually unintelligible varieties. There are also difficulties in obtaining reliable counts of speakers, which vary over time because of population change and
language shift Language shift, also known as language transfer or language replacement or language assimilation, is the process whereby a speech community shifts to a different language, usually over an extended period of time. Often, languages that are perceiv ...
. In some areas, there is no reliable
census A census is the procedure of systematically enumerating, and acquiring and recording information about the members of a given Statistical population, population. This term is used mostly in connection with Population and housing censuses by country ...
data, the data is not current, or the census may not record languages spoken, or record them ambiguously. Sometimes speaker populations are exaggerated for political reasons, or speakers of minority languages may be under-reported in favour of a national language.

Top languages by population

''Ethnologue'' (2019, 22nd edition)

The following languages are listed as having at least 10 million first language speakers in the 2019 edition of ''Ethnologue'', a language reference published by
SIL International SIL International (formerly known as the Summer Institute of Linguistics) is a :Evangelical parachurch organizations, Christian non-profit organization, whose main purpose is to study, develop and document languages, especially those that are le ...
, which is based in the United States. For items below #26, see individual ''Ethnologue'' entry for each language.

''Nationalencyklopedin'' (2010)

The following table contains the top 100 languages by estimated number of native speakers in the 2007 edition of the Swedish encyclopedia ''Nationalencyklopedin''. As census methods in different countries vary to a considerable extent, and given that some countries do not record language in their censuses, any list of languages by native speakers, or total speakers, is effectively based on estimates. Updated estimates from 2010 are also provided.Mikael Parkvall, "Världens 100 största språk 2007" (The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007), in ''Nationalencyklopedin''. Asterisks mark th
2010 estimates
for the top dozen languages.
The top eleven languages have additional figures from the 2010 edition of the ''Nationalencyklopedin''. Numbers above 95 million are rounded off to the nearest 5 million.

Charts and graphs

Image:List of languages by number of native speakers.png, Bubble chart of languages by proportion of native speakers worldwide Image:Languages with at least 50 million first-language speakers.png, Languages with at least 50 million first-language speakers, millions (according to: EthnologueSummary by language size

See also

* Global language system * Languages of Africa * Languages used on the Internet * Linguistic demography * Linguistic diversity index * List of ISO 639-3 codes * List of languages by number of native speakers in India (uses a different definition of Hindi) * List of languages by the number of countries in which they are recognized as an official language * List of languages by total number of speakers * List of sign languages by number of native signers * Lists of languages * Number of languages by country * World language



External links

* The Ethnologue'
most recent list of languages by total number of speakers
– this is not a list of native speakers
2009-10-31) – Encarta list, based on data from Ethnologue, but some figures (e.g. for Arabic) widely vary from it
Map of World Languages. Download of MP3 audio files in 1600 language combinations.
{{DEFAULTSORT:Languages By Number of Native Speakers Lists of languages, Number of Native Speakers